By Audrey Sightler
We all witnessed socialism on the streets of Seattle earlier this summer: a utopian community under the name the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or Capitol Hill Organized Protest, in which George Floyd protesters occupied and fortified six blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. While the protesters held the community, they made dangerous policy demands such as establishing city-wide rent control, abolishing the courts, abolishing imprisonment, and so on. But this is nothing new, utopian communities have been attempted in America many times and even in early America.
Josiah Warren (1798-1847), born in Boston, Massachusetts, was America's first anarchist and was the editor of the "The Peaceful Revolutionist," the first anarchist periodical; Warren published it in 1833. Warren was greatly influenced by Robert Owen, a Welsh social reformer and one founder of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. Owen is also known for advocating experimental socialistic communities; this inspired Warren into founding the Cincinnati Time Store as well as the utopian community Modern Times. The Cincinnati Time Store was where he tested his economic labor theory of value. The innovative store operated from May 18, 1827, until May 1830. He sold items at cost, plus a small markup for his time. It is generally thought to be the first time alternative currency labor notes had been used, while at the same time, the first experiment under what would later be termed mutualism.
Warren adopted the labor theory of value for the Cincinnati Time Store, which specifies that the cost of a commodity is the sum of labor that goes into producing or acquiring it. After this, he concluded that it was consequently unethical to charge more labor for a product than the work required to provide it. Warren summed up this policy in the expression "Cost the limit of price," with "cost" describing the quantity of labor one exerted in producing a good. Believing that the work represents the foundational cost of things, he maintained that equal amounts of labor must, indeed, be given equivalent material compensation. He set forth to investigate if his theories might be put to practice by creating his "labor for labor store." Unless his experiment proved to be successful, he schemed to develop several colonies for which the contributors all agreed to utilize the cost the limit of price" throughout all economic transactions, eager that all of society would ultimately implement the tenet in all financial affairs. 1 Warren eventually closed the store in May 1830 to be able to start developing his ideas for a utopian community in accordance with the labor-cost theory.
Warren eventually moved to what is now known as Brentwood, New York, where he established the utopian community “Modern Times” as distinct from other utopian socialistic communities of nineteenth-century America. Modern Times was nearer to an anarchist society, with principles of complete toleration and without a central government. The occupants of Modern Times were without police, courts of law, and prisons, just as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” Warren's utopian communities could be said to have failed; they did not collapse in the sense that New Harmony, Brook Farm, and several other socialistic experiments failed. For instance, Robert Owens’ utopian community in New Harmony, Indiana, the 800 residents were supposed to contribute to what talents they had and share in the compensation that they were sure to produce together. Almost instantaneously, Owen recognized that his grand community was “chaotic.”
Its residents did not have the motivation to work, and at the same time, its government had been unable to operate even the town’s one general store. The community could not generate an adequate amount of food to become self-sufficient, largely because when it's hardest-working members discovered that they were going to earn the same profits as the indolent, they stopped working. Along with no new houses being constructed for the ever-increasing community as well as food shortages turning into an epidemic, homelessness and starvation ran rife until finally New Harmony’s experimentation with socialism ended in March 1827.
CHAZ was just another example of past utopian communities that have been tested in several different ways but always end in the same result. If CHAZ had lasted long enough without police intervention due to the violent crime, we would have seen the economic collapse of their doomed-to-fail community. The occupants of CHAZ made a list of socialist demands for local and state governing officials that did not correlate with the death of George Floyd. Still, his death was used as an opportunity for receiving free assets. These demands included socialized health and medicine for the City of Seattle, free public housing (because housing is a right), as well as public education, decreases on the average class size in city schools, and increases on teacher salary, general community development, parks, and so on. 2 The occupants of CHAZ could not have survived without capitalism because that would mean no Trader Joes, no Starbucks, and no Apple iPhones. Whenever someone has one of these products in their hands, they are holding capitalism and ironically promoting it.
Audrey Sightler is a Louisiana native, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration, as well as a History Minor with Liberty University. She is an active member of the International Churchill Society and the Royal Economic Society. Moreover, Audrey has achieved multiple certifications in International Business with the University of London. Audrey is a fourth-generation American descendant of an Ellis Island immigrant; her forefathers also worked alongside the Founding Fathers to establish our freedoms during America's founding.